During times of great change, cultures and individuals often create something to mark the process of transformation and the eventual integration of the old into the new. There are many examples of this religious and cultural clash resulting in material culture which reflects this transition. The resultant edifices often become pilgrimage sites of deep significance to people from multiple faiths.
Individuals aren’t exempt from culture clash and, for some, this results in chaos and confusion as a side effect of competing belief systems. When deep turmoil happens in an individual, this sometimes manifests as visions, voices, and/or connection with divine powers. Individuals often make art as a way of communicating their ineffable experiences.
When viewed from a biomedical perspective, this turmoil may be misdiagnosed as psychosis. When viewed from a cross-cultural, archetypal perspective, the ‘symptoms’ may be considered conversion experiences, spiritual transformations – transitory experiences which can be moved through.
We will look at this dual phenomenon of cultural and individual transformation using the examples of Norway’s Stave Churches and the iconography of Ireland’s St. Brigid.